History

Nelson Fringe Festival is one of the country’s feistiest little festivals, proud to fly the flag for fringey exploits.

From the start Nelson Fringe Festival has been strongly supported by people from Nelson and our neighbouring Tasman District, often selling out shows. Our performers come from all around Aotearoa, and increasingly, from around the world.

2024 will be the fourth festival for Director Giles Burton, who brings a wealth of knowledge and experience from fringe festivals around the world.

In 2023, we presented 48 shows in three venues across 10 days – it was massive! We were so stoked to be able to present a real mix of theatre, dance, stand-up, kids shows, music and improv.

We were especially thrilled at the number of local artists - we have a stong commitment to supporting performers from across Te Tau Ihu Top of the South, claiming their place on the stage alongside national and international performers. 

We also aligned our dates with the fringe festivals in Wellington and Dunedin so that artists could tour to all three. It worked really well, both for local and international performers, so it’s a formula we’re keeping for 2024 and beyond.

Nelson Fringe Festival began in 2015 when Dan and Lisa Allan created a theatre space at the old Refinery building in Halifax Street. The early days had a big focus on improv, and successfully tapped in this community in Nelson and around the country.

Dan and Lisa did so well that they were awarded Nelsonian of the Year for their contribution to the local arts scene (whoo-hoo!). They passed the directorial baton on to dynamo Laura Irish, who produced the 2017, 2018 and 2020 festivals (we needed a little hiatis in 2019). Laura extended the number of venues, including the much-loved Ghost Light Theatre in Bridge Street.

2020 was a big year (don’t we all know it). First, the festival had to do a last-minute relocate due to the Refinery building being closed for earthquake strengthening. The lockdowns then forced a postponement, followed by a last-minute pivot to a digital festival.

In 2021, with Giles at the helm and a lot of crossed fingers, we presented a ‘best of’ season, just to get back on our feet, and most importantly, to give an opportunity to performers who'd being doing it tough. It was also about reassuring audiences that fringe festivals will always be tenacious. It went pretty well, so 2022 was a bigger programme with local and NZ performers. We had got definitely our groove back.